Monday, October 12, 2009

N.Y. Court of Appeals This Week

Beginning tomorrow, the New York Court of Appeals will hear oral argument in 13 cases this week. There are ten civil cases, and three criminal cases. Two of the civil cases will generate the most attention.

Same-sex Unions: in Hernandez v. Robles, 7 N.Y.3d 338 (2006), the Court of Appeals ruled that it is not unconstitutional for the State of New York, under the Domestic Relations Law, to limit marriages entered into in New York to opposite-sex couples.

In Godfrey v. Spano and Lewis v. New York State Department of Civil Service the Court will consider whether government agencies can extend to same-sex couples who married in other jurisdictions such as Canada the same benefits those agencies extend to opposite-sex married couples. For example, in Lewis v. New York State Department of Civil Service the Department of Civil Service extends health insurance benefits of state and local government employees to same-sex spouses.

Eminent Domain: in Matter of Goldstein v. New York State Urban Development Corp. the Court will address the use of eminent domain to take property on the site of the proposed Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, the centerpiece of which will be a new arena for the New Jersey Nets basketball team.

Under the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution private property shall not be "taken for public use, without just compensation." In Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005), the Supreme Court gave a broad interpretation of "public use."

Article I, § 7, of the New York State Constitution similarly declares that "private property shall not be taken for public use without just compensation." In Matter of Goldstein the Court of Appeals will address whether the Public Use clause in the State constitution is narrower than that in the Federal constitution and prohibits the use of eminent domain to benefit a private developer.

The decision in Matter of Goldstein will be of major significance. Its most immediate impact will probably be on Columbia University's plans to expand on the west side of Broadway in Manhattan to 125th Street. A few individuals have refused to sell their properties to the university, and the brewing legal question is whether the State of New York can use eminent domain to condemn those properties for the benefit of the university.

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